A few words about book's author
THOMAS HARDY, whose writings immortalized the Wessex countryside and dramatized his sense of the inevitable tragedy of life, was born near Egdon Heath in Dorset in 1840, the eldest child of a prosperous stonemason. As a youth he trained as an architect and in 1862 obtained a post in London. During this time he began seriously to write poetry, which remained his first literary love and his last. In 1867-68, his first novel was refused publication, but Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), his first Wessex novel, did well enough to convince him to continue writing. In 1874, Far from the Madding Crowd, published serially and anonymously in the Cornhill Magazine, became a great success. Hardy married Emma Gifford in 1874, and in 1875 they settled at Max Gate in Dorchester, where he lived the rest of his life. There he wrote The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). With Tess, Hardy clashed with the expectations of his audience; a storm of abuse broke over the “infidelity” and “obscenity” of this great novel he had subtitled “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” Jude the Obscure aroused even greater indignation and was denounced as pornography. Hardy’s disgust at the reaction to Jude led him to announce in 1896 that he would never write fiction again. He published Wessex Poems in 1898, Poems of the Past and Present in 1901, and from 1903 to 1908, The Dynasts, a huge drama in which Hardy’s conception of the Immanent Will, implicit in the tragic novels, is most clearly stated. In 1912, Hardy’s wife, Emma, died. The marriage was childless and had long been a troubled one, but in the years after her death, Hardy memorialized her in several poems. At seventy-four, he married his longtime secretary, Florence Dugdale, herself a writer of children’s books and articles, with whom he lived happily until his death in 1928. His heart was buried in the Wessex countryside; his ashes were placed next to Charles Dickens’s in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in the village of Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester, a market town in the county of Dorset. Hardy would spend much of his life in his native region, transforming its rural landscapes into his fictional Wesses. Hardys mother, Jemima, inspired him with a taste for literature, while his stonemason father, Thomas, shared with him a love of architecture and music (the two would later play the fiddle at local dances). As a boy Hardy read widely in the popular fiction of the day, including the novels of Scott, Dumas, Dickens, W. Harrison Ainsworth, and G.P.R. James, and in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and others. Strongly influenced in his youth by the Bible and the liturgy of the Anglican Church, Hardy later contemplated a career in the ministry; but his assimilation of the new theories of Darwinian evolutionism eventually made him an agnostic and a severe critic of the limitations of traditional religion. Although Hardy was a gifted student at the local schools he attended as a boy for eight years, his lower-class social origins limited his further educational opportunities. At sixteen, he was apprenticed to architect James Hicks in Dorchester and began an architectural career primarily focused on the restoration of churches. In Dorchester Hardy was also befriended by Horace Moule, eight years Hardys senior, who acted as an intellectual mentor and literary adviser throughout his youth and early adulthood. From 1862 to 1867 hardy worked in London for the distinguished architect Arthur Blomfeld, but he continued to study — literature, art, philosophy, science, history, the classics — and to write, first poetry and then fiction. In the early 1870s Hardys first two published novels, Desperate Remedies and Under the Greenwood Tree, appeared to little acclaim or sales. With his third novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, he began the practice of serializing his fiction in magazines prior to book publication, a method that he would utilize throughout his career as a novelist. In 1874, the year of his marriage to Emma Gifford of St. Juliot, Cornwall, Hardy enjoyed his first significant commercial and critical success with the book publication of Far from the Madding Crowd after its serialization in the Cornhill Magazine. Hardy and his wife lived in several locations in London, Dorset, and Somerset before settling in South London for three years in 1878. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, Hardy published The Return of the Native, The Trumpet-Major, A Laodicean, and Two on a Tower while consolidating his pace as a leading contemporary English novelist. He would also eventually produce four volumes of short stories: Wessex Tales, A Group of Noble Dames, Lifes Little Ironies, and A Changed Man. In 1883, Hardy and his wife moved back to Dorchester, where Hardy wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge, set in a fictionalized version of Dorchester, and went on to design and construct a permanent home for himself, named Max Gate, completed in 1885. In the later 1880s and early 1890s Hardy wrote three of his greatest novels, The Woodlanders, Tess of the dUrbevilles, and Jude the Obscure, all of them notable for their remarkable tragic power. The latter two were initially published as magazine serials in which Hardy removed potentially objectionable moral and religious content, only to restore it when the novels were published in book form; both novels nevertheless aroused public controversy for their criticisms of Victorian sexual and religious mores. In particular, the appearance of Jude the Obscure in 1895 precipitated harsh attacks on Hardys alleged pessimism and immorality; the attacks contributed to his decision to abandon the writing of fiction after the appearance of his last-published novel, The Well-Beloved. In the later 1890s Hardy returned to the writing of poetry that he had abandoned for fiction thirty years earlier. Wessex Poems appeared in 1898, followed by several volumes of poetry at regular intervals over the next three decades. Between 1904 and 1908 Hardy published a three-part epic verse drama, The Dynasts, based on the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century. Following the death of his first wife in 1912, Hardy married his literary secretary Florence Dugdale in 1914. Hardy received a variety of public honors in the last two decades of his life and continued to publish poems until his death at Max Gate on January 11, 1928. His ashes were interred in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey in London and his heart in Stinsford outside Dorchester. Regarded as one of Englands greatest authors of both fiction and poetry, Hardy has inspired such notable twentieth-century writers as Marcel Proust, John Cowper Powys, D. H. Lawrence, Theodore Dreiser, and John Fowles. Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Far from the Madding Crowd.